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Age Concern worried about pension ‘holidays’

Senior’s advocacy group Age Concern said it is disappointed by rollbacks of policies supporting seniors, but more concerned about the effects of potential pension “holidays”.

In a statement, the organisation said: “We want the public to avoid the misconception that retirement savings is something only to be concerned about at the point of retirement.

“Good retirement planning is continuous and should happen as early and consistent in a person’s working life as possible. There is no guarantee that Bermuda will have a financial safety net available for older people to rely on in the future.”

If employers do take advantage of the holiday, the organisation said they should be required in the future to pay back the money they didn’t contribute.

Announcing the 2012/13 Budget last month, Premier Paula Cox announced that private companies would be able to take a “holiday” in pension contributions, which would in turn save the employer from matching that contribution and leave the employee with more money in pocket.

However the proposal has been a target for criticism, with some saying the future cost for the public would be far greater than today’s benefits.

Ms Cox also announced that Government would modify land tax exemptions for seniors, causing seniors with homes valued at more than $1 million to pay land tax, and change vehicle licence exemptions so that seniors will have to pay to licence larger vehicles.

Responding to the changes, Age Concern said it was disappointed, but glad to see that exemptions will still exist for smaller vehicles and homes.

While the amendments to licencing fees are intended to curb abuse of the system, Age Concern said that not every case of a senior licencing a larger vehicle is a case of abuse.

“There are some persons who require larger vehicles for medical reasons and we would like for special consideration for full exemption to be provided for individuals who fit into this category,” she said.

“It is understood that more than half of all persons over the age of 65 years own a valid driver’s license. The ability to afford a personal vehicle can sometimes mean the difference between isolation and a fulfilling quality of life.”

Age Concern however praised proposed amendments to the Financial Assistance programme which would allow senior homeowners to qualify, saying: “We look forward to a speedy legislative amendment process.

“Seniors have always been prepared to do their part in contributing to the success of our economy. In fact, the Bermuda we know today has been built on their efforts.

“We therefore hope that the budgetary measures that have been proposed will not cause any adverse financial burden to our ageing population.”

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Published March 12, 2012 at 9:59 am (Updated March 12, 2012 at 9:59 am)

Age Concern worried about pension ‘holidays’

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